Sunday, February 19, 2012

In which Sunny and I cope with anxiety

Saturday:  Sunny and mid-40's.  Both boys were dusty and covered in hay chaff from lie-down naps, but they cleaned up pretty quickly.  Saddled Thunder and after a few minutes of longeing and some bending on the ground in each direction, followed by a quick trip back to the car to retrieve my helmet, I stepped on.  I wasn't sure how he'd be since Sunny was throwing a tantrum on the other side of the trailer - he's used to being the one leaving, not the one left, but Thunder didn't seem to be paying any attention to the noise.  

He stood calmly for me to swing on, and walked off when I clucked and bumped gently.  We've progressed to small circles and figure eights interspersed with "whoa" - Good Boy!  A few head-shaking moments, and he did want to edge his way back over toward the trailer, but on the whole a good session.  Things seem to click a bit better each time, even as sporadic as his under-rider time has been. 

Sunny called and sashayed and fussed and pawed - he couldn't see us from where he was, and he'd worked himself into a sweat by the time I finished with Thunder, not that it did him any good.  We'll be repeating that lesson until he's as copacetic with being left alone as Thunder has gotten.

Sunday: 50s and a LOT of wind.  J called mid-morning to see if I wanted to ride, and since Rufus hasn't had an outing in a while I decided to ride him rather than hooking up the trailer, collecting the boys and hauling over.

Both Rufus and Buddy were pretty fresh.  We walked the first 100 yards or so, then settled into a steady jog for the next couple of miles.  Between the wind and his usual "OMG it's gonna eat me!" outlook on life, Rufus was giving me lots of practice in keeping my seat.  But other than bounding sideways to be sure none of the No Trespassing signs we passed had a clear shot at him, and eying all the snow spots in the ditches with great suspicion, Rufus was actually keeping it together okay.  He was looky, but not overly nervous feeling until we passed a house set back off the road behind some trees. 

We couldn't see anyone, but just as we reached the driveway someone started shooting.  Not toward us, thank goodness, but with something heavy enough that it sounded close.  Rufus was NOT a happy camper.  He was all for beating feet for home and extremely displeased to be held back. 

Okay, I'm spoiled.  Sunny is pretty much gunfire proof, having lived all his life next to the pheasant hunting lodge.  At last Thursday's lesson the neighbors were shooting targets, and he didn't flip an ear.  Of course, I also ride him more, and he trusts me.  Even when Sunny's fussed over something he'll usually settle if I'm not worried.  Rufus and I don't have that kind of rapport. 

Rufus also has a bad habit of throwing his head and popping his front feet off the ground if he wants to go and his rider doesn't let him.  Having had a horse come over on me once, it's a habit I'm not particularly easy with - it makes me nervous.  And what happens when the horse is on edge and the rider is too?  Exactly. 

So as the shooting continued and we'd done some small circles and Rufus just got more and more anxious, I finally swung off and walked next to him for a half-mile or so.  I don't like getting off, but the antsier he got the tighter I got, and my nerves were feeding his which wasn't making anything better.  On the ground I made him walk and just ignored the rest of his antics.  After the gun shots faded into the distance I swung back on. 

He was on his toes and watching for the boogeyman in every bush, but at least his brain was engaged again, and I'd had a chance to take some deep breaths and shake my nerves off, as well.  We had another nice lope and then jogged the remainder of the way home.    Eight miles in about an hour and a half - not bad.  But next time I ride him, I think he'll wear a running martingale - for my peace of mind.

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